Each year, the Law School, law faculty, and Law School Association present special awards at the Diploma Ceremony to members of the graduating class in recognition of professional promise, exceptional service and distinguished pro bono work. The following graduates were recognized during the Law School’s virtual celebration on May 16.
Lawrence W. I’Anson Award: Rebecca K. Jaeger and Kelsie M. Sicinski
The Law School faculty awards the I’Anson Award to a graduating student or students in recognition of great professional promise as demonstrated through scholarship, character and leadership. The award is named in honor of Lawrence W. I'Anson (1907-1990), who earned his undergraduate degree at William & Mary and was Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Virginia from 1974 to 1981.
Rebecca K. Jaeger served as Student Bar Association (SBA) President, as an Articles Editor on the William & Mary Law Review, and was a member of the Moot Court Team. At graduation, she was inducted into Order of the Coif, the highest academic honor a law student can achieve, and received additional awards including a Dean’s Certificate for outstanding efforts on behalf of the Law School community and recognition for service to the SBA. A nominator commented that “Rebecca is an extraordinary leader. She is outstandingly bright, and one of the hardest-working students I have known. I look forward to all that she will accomplish in her life.”
Kelcie M. Sicinski served as Chair of the Law School’s Honor Council and was active in many other student organizations. She was inducted into Order of the Coif, the highest academic honor a law student can achieve, and was one of three students in her class tied for the rank of number one. She also was recipient of the Office of Student Affairs’ A. Joseph Jay Award, which is presented each year for service in support of the university’s values. A nominator commented: “Kelsie is one of the best students I have ever taught. Her commitment to excellence in academics and service is unparalleled, and she embodies the citizen-lawyer ideal envisioned by Thomas Jefferson.”
Thurgood Marshall Award: Layla A. Abi-Falah and Benming Zhang
The Law School Association gives this honor each year to graduates who exhibit the ideals of distinguished public service exemplified by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall (1908-1993).
Among her activities as a law student, Layla A. Abi-Fahla served as Editor-in-Chief of the Journal for Race, Gender, and Social Justice, Vice President of the Comparative Legal Society and Secretary of the Muslim Law Students Association. In addition to the Thurgood Marshall Award, she also received a Dean’s Certificate for outstanding efforts on behalf of the Law School community, recognition for community service, and the Law School’s Award for Excellence in International Law. A nominator commented: “From day one Layla has devoted her law school career to serving human rights around the world. She has spent her summers working abroad on international criminal law issues and I have every confidence that she will be an energetic and successful advocate for universal human rights for the duration of her career.”
Benming Zhang is the youngest person and first Asian American elected to the Williamsburg City Council. Only the second William & Mary student to win a seat in the Council’s history, he will complete his four-year term on June 30. At the Law School, he was active on a number of journals including the Brigham-Kanner Property Rights Journal, as Bluelines Editor, and in organizations such as the Christian Legal Society. In addition to the I’Anson Award, he also received a Dean’s Certificate for outstanding efforts on behalf of the Law School community and the ABA State and Local Government Award. A nominator commented: “Benny stands out for his service to the Williamsburg community as city councilman, his involvement in local events, and also for being an exemplary person and friend to the entire law school.”
George Wythe Award: Ariana Cheng
The award is named in honor of George Wythe—William & Mary's and the nation's first professor of law—and is given by the Law School each year to a graduating student in recognition of his or her outstanding and selfless service.
Among her activities in law school, Ariana Cheng served as President of the Asian Pacific American Law Student Association, Articles Editor of the William & Mary Bill of Rights Journal, and member of the Dean’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee. In addition to the Wythe Award, she also received a Dean’s Certificate for outstanding efforts on the behalf of the Law School community and recognition for community service. One nominator commented: "Ariana has been a leader at the Law School in diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. She has approached controversial issues with sensitivity and professionalism; her communications to the community have been thoughtful and inclusive; and her engagement with the faculty and administration has always been in the spirit of making the Law School a better place for all."
Thomas Jefferson founded William & Mary Law School in 1779 to train leaders for the new nation. Now in its third century, America's oldest law school continues its historic mission of educating citizen lawyers who are prepared both to lead and to serve.